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Families and inclusive societies

Published: 
Monday, May 14, 2018

On Tuesday, May 15, the world will observe the International Day of Families on the theme: Families and inclusive societies.

The UN states: “Although families all over the world have transformed greatly over the past decades in terms of their structure and as a result of global trends and demographic changes, the UN still recognises the family as the basic unit of society. The International Day of Families provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting them…This year’s observance will explore the role of families and family policies in advancing Sustainable Development Goal 16 in terms of promoting peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development.”

I attended a recent consultative session organised by the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services to discuss the Draft Green Paper on Parenting (leading to a revised National Parenting Policy for TT). Such a policy must be part of an overall plan to promote integral human development in T&T.

Sustainable development cannot take place in a vacuum. Each country should engage in introspection to determine whether its laws, policies, programmes and practices enhance/include or exclude/marginalise families/communities.

What is our vision for an inclusive society? How can we promote sustainable development/empower parents in a country that continues to exclude so many families/communities; where so many live on the margins of society?

In 2009, the UN’s Department of Economic and Social Affairs produced a useful document: Creating an Inclusive Society: Practical Strategies to Promote Social Integration. (www.un.org/esa/socdev/egms/docs/2009/Ghana/inclusive-society.pdf)

Inter alia, the document explores what determines or represents an inclusive society, and why it is important to build such a society. It defines social inclusion “as a process by which efforts are made to ensure equal opportunities for all, regardless of their background, so that they can achieve their full potential in life. It is a multi-dimensional process aimed at creating conditions which enable full and active participation of every member of the society in all aspects of life, including civic, social, economic and political activities, as well as participation in decision-making processes.”

The document also views social inclusion “as the process by which societies combat poverty and social exclusion...

“Social exclusion is understood as the condition (barriers and process) that impede social inclusion. Social exclusion is a process through which individuals or groups are wholly or partially excluded from fully participating in all aspects of life of the society, in which they live, on the grounds of their social identities, such as age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture or language, and/or physical, economic, social disadvantages. Social exclusion may mean the lack of voice, lack of recognition, or lack of capacity for active participation. It may also mean exclusion from decent work, assets, land, opportunities, access to social services and/or political representation…

“Equity in the distribution of wealth and resources is another critical element of inclusive societies. How the resources are allocated and utilised will significantly affect the orientation of a society, either towards a more integrated, inclusive society, or an exclusive, polarized, and disintegrated one…Effective leadership is crucial to the development of an inclusive society…there must be an effort made to achieve transparency and accountability by all decision-makers and stakeholders.”

Zenit reports that on October 7, 2015, Pope Francis said during his General Audience that “the daily lives of today’s men and women show a need for an ‘injection of family spirit.’ While civil, economic, juridical, and professional relationships seem rational, they often become dry, even unbearable.” He said: “While wanting to be inclusive in its forms, in reality they abandon to solitude and waste away an always greater number of people.” He lamented that in today’s world, support for the family has been diminished and that the virtues of family life have not been incorporated in modern society.

Over and over the Holy Father warns us about the “globalisation of indifference.” It’s no use having an excellent Preamble in our Constitution if we continue to fail to act to make those fundamental principles contained therein a reality. Let us reflect on ways in which we can translate these principles into practice. Each person/parish should reflect on e.g. what we can do to reduce poverty; to promote family life; to bring those on the margins to the table of life; to care for children, the elderly, refugees and asylum seekers, the sexually abused, the victims of crime, the incarcerated/their families, victims and perpetrators of domestic violence; and to ensure basic amenities for all.

Leela Ramdeen

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